Sunday, June 21, 2009


Perceptions are like palimpsets. Particularly correct of people around us. We form an image of a person – good or bad – code it with a cipher and tuck it in the back of our minds. Many days, weeks, months, years, words, looks, shrugs, smiles, silences later, that image is retrieved, scrubbed clean and redrawn. The problem is here. Like a bad dishwasher, no matter how much we try to scrub and scour, the old image leaves a shadow. The new one covers it – or we think it does, but the shadow lurks, peeping every now and then, and when you hold your image to light, you see the old image had never left. It was always there – damaged and incomplete. Years and years of doing this and it’s a wonder if we are left with anything of real value. Just a few odd lines here and there, disjointed and divergent. Lies covering truths or is it the other way round?

For all the time we spend in trying to figure out a person – friends, family and other assorted gentry, we, one day, realize with a mild horror, the fact that we are palimpsests in other people’s minds too. Fragmented, and unfinished, we are but solitary actors to their choric sapience. And some times, or perhaps many times, no matter how well we perform, we have no control whatsoever to their perceptions. And we shouldn’t, because we must all be entitled to our own wisdom or lack of it.

To add to the confusing mix is the fact that spare a few, most of us are trying to figure out who we are by trying to gauge the contents of these palimpsets. But we neither have their cipher and even if we did, their language is different than what we speak. Like the crazy house of mirrors in a carnival, this is a dangerous territory of distortions. The funny thing is this. Inaccuracies are a problem only when they injure us. I mean we are not exactly going to run and complain ad nauseoum if we are being thought of as agreeable while we know we are quite the antithesis. But how do we know we are disagreeable really? We don’t. We are only reflections of ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Hence the saying - first impression is the last impression :)


Mahendra said...


(reminded of various Venn diagrams of the psychological/philosophical kind)

rayshma said...

very well said. :)

Mama - Mia said...

phew! next tab on my explorer is! :p

no, but i get the gist of it and its so so true! just yesterday M was getting allw orked up why certain people dont like us and why should we be the people being nife and the works!

and i kept telling him that why do we have to be liked by one all? why should one expect goodness in return from the very same people? and what stops us from being who we are irrespctive of how some people do or dont react to us?!

brilliant stuff dottie!



ps: will mail ya my address for the jam!! ;)

Vidooshak said...

Anand nailed the comment. That saying makes so much more sense when read with this post.

Brilliant post. Must admit I never thought of it this way and am still conflicted about the theory. But you do make a compelling and beautiful statement. Very well written!

dipali said...

Profound truth here!

Anonymous said...

Very well expressed, I must say.

Indeed, this is a dangerous territory. One step further, and it also becomes a mute point, if I 'know' myself in all its facets and changes. And where is that one particular "I" that I can (must/ have to) identify with.

As the greek philosopher, Diogenes said, "You can not cross the same river twice". Because the river has changed the very next instant.

It is a great topic, perhaps lasting for a lifetime. In this context, highly recomended is "Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Repairs". Hopw dottie pens out something like that one of these days.

- Aba

Anonymous said...

By the way, What are Venn diagrams? May be Mahendra can throw some light. -:))

- Aba

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

perceptions of people can never be perfect. the same person can be totally agreeable on certain things, or rub the wrong way in others... and like you rightly pointed out, we're the same to others:)
as far as i'm concerned, i guess we shd try be truthful to ourselves, and if we're happy with ourselves and do what's right by us, that's a great first step in making a positive impression...(not that we have to :)
also, people change and so do perceptions and our expectations...

anyhoo ...what brought on this philosophical discussion??

DotThoughts said...

Anand: How, true! Suddenl;y I see that in new light :)

Mahendra: ROTFL. Care to share a few?

Rayshma: thanks!

Abha: I have always wanted to use the word choric :) Yes, with me its a case of I understand it, but don't quite follow it.

Vidooshak: Anand did nail it, right? @Conflict abt theory, my plan B is BiGeek's theory: Idiot until proven otherwise:)

Dipali: Lotsa Qs, no As.

Aba: How true. This topic will last several lifetimes. I was thinking of the Diogenes quote, when I wrote this :) Venn-diagrams, to jog your momroy, are those diagrams with overlapping circles.

DotThoughts said...

GND: A friday brought it on. I should really go get my head examined now!

Anonymous said...

Have been reading your blog for a long time. Had to delurk after reading this post.

Nice take on the perception vs reality dilemma that we face each moment about ourselves and others

Keep writing !!


Anonymous said...

Heard about the train collision last night. Everything OK at your end?

DotThoughts said...

Priya: thanks.
Anon: yes, we are ok. what a tragedy, though.